British Medical Journal has just published an editorial calling for doctors to “lead by example on climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of medical conferences.” The piece was written by Ian Roberts, a professor of epidemiology and population health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Dr. Fiona Godlee, an editor at BMJ.
With respect to Prof. Ian Roberts, the carbon footprint has been meddling his mind at least since he published such a pearl as “Confession of a climate criminal” (BMJ 2005;331:643 (17 September)). One can also check Prof. Roberts’ home page to see what tovarisch Noam Chomsky means for Prof. Roberts’ career.
As far as Dr. Fiona Godlee’s involvement in the carbon footprint quagmire, Medgadget has conducted an online investigation into conferences in which Dr. Godlee is listed as a speaker, a lecturer or a committee member. What we can say is that Dr. Godlee is a “has been there, done that” kind of person. And we mean around the world, most likely in business class. Definitely not on a horse to IFSE-Rio Conference in Rio de Janeiro (2000). Not on a donkey to Freedom of Information Conference 2000, held 6-7 July 2000, New York Academy of Medicine, or to the 2005 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Faculty of Public Health in Scarborough, UK. How about an important BNF prescribing excellence conference in 2004 at the Commonwealth Institute, London?
It seems that Dr. Godlee fell in love with Italy by going to The World Association of Medical Editors Bellagio Conference 2001 (Bellagio, Italy, January 22-26, 2001.), and the same WAME Bellagio Conference in 1995 (.pdf).
Here’s some more of Dr. Fiona Godlee’s carbon footprint (via Google footprint) that threatens the blue skies of your children (always about the children, isn’t it?):
— Third International Congress on Biomedical Peer Review and Global Communications September 18-20, 1997 (Prague, Czech Republic)
— Fifth International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication September 16-18, 2005 (Chicago, Illinois)
— BMJ Masterclass for GPs: General Update 2007 (scheduled in one week in Glasgow, Scotland)
— History of the Social Determinants of Health 2006 (UC London 19-21 September 2006)
— Defending the Integrity of the Biomedical Literature,” an Epidemiology seminar with Fiona Godlee (April 4, 2006, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD)
— ESF/EMRC Symposium on Prospective Registration of Randomized Clinical Trials (.pdf) (Tuesday 19 November 2002, Frankfurt Airport Conference Centre)
All this without mention of the conferences she attended as an audience member, or vacations she took outside her county borders.
The hypocrisy is always quite refreshing as elites (i.e. conference speakers) prescribe behavior to the huddled masses (i.e. conference attendees) that they themselves care not to participate in. It always falls to the aristocrat to say how, and to the proletarian to change the world as he is told.
“Lead by example,” indeed. We MDs, treating the common peasants, can only sit and wait until children start to drown in the glacial waters. Next year, of course, next year…
The revolutionary editorial: Reducing the carbon footprint of medical conferences (the first 150 words; the full editorial is available only after you subsidize Dr. Godlee’s carbon footprint)…
BMJ press release…
Update: The BMJ article begins with these words: “The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published earlier this month, leaves no room for complacency.” The fact is that the report has not been published yet. Only a summary for policy makers has been released, a piece that attempts to glide over all the ifs, ands and buts, in order to make it readable for the non-scientific community. It would seem that the editors at BMJ have truly decided to change their role from being scientists to meddlers in public policy.